The struggle against redundancies at Liverpool university will have implications across the sector
UCU members at Liverpool University started industrial action today on Monday over management attempts to enforce 47 redundancies in the university’s School of Health and Life Sciences.
Like many universities, Liverpool saw an increase in student numbers in academic year 2020/21, and income increased as a consequence. But managers have used the uncertainties created by the pandemic as a cover to introduce ‘change management’ plans called ‘Project SHAPE’.
The people identified for redundancy have been selected on two criteria (which have never been raised before). First, income generation and second their position on citation metrics. It is worth noting that on the citation metrics being used, near half of the Government’s present SAGE committee would face the sack!
These measurement tools effectively tear up working contracts and people’s legal protections at work.
If Liverpool University gets away with this it will have huge implications across the sector. It would potentially allow managers at any university to introduce new ‘capability’ criteria that would allow them to ‘rank and yank’ staff to facilitate their latest hair-brained expansion schemes.
UCU members have now embarked on ‘Action Short Of Strike’ including working to contract, refusal to cover for absent colleagues and refusing to undertake voluntary duties.
The redundancies are due to be implemented at the end of May and strike action may be needed to defeat the University plans.
The fight at Liverpool has sector-wide significance and the UCU branch needs solidarity from trade unionist across the country.
Similar management strategies are being tried out across a number of universities in the North West.
The University of Chester has announced 27 redundancies in English, Humanities, History, Archaeology, Engineering, Geography and Media. Staff were notified of the decision at 5 o’clock before the institution shut down for Easter. The biggest ever union meeting at Chester University voted overwhelmingly for industrial action to fight the redundancies.
Managers at UCLAN, in Preston, withdrew redundancy plans in the face of strike action.
And of course, in London at Goldsmith’s, management attacks were successfully resisted by the branch during a long ASOS campaign.
It is clear that senior managers at a number of universities are using the pandemic to attack our rights and working conditions. But as the examples of UCLAN and Goldsmith’s show strong union action can push these assaults back and lay the basis for a serious fight for pay and conditions in the sector.
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